Molecular Oncology 2012

Pharmacogenomics is the study of genetic factors determining drug response or toxicity. The use of pharmacogenomics is especially desirable in oncology because the therapeutic index of oncology drugs is often narrow, the need for favorable drug response is often acute, and the consequences of drug toxicity can be life-threatening. In this review, we examine the state of pharmacogenomics in oncology, focusing only on germline pharmacogenomic variants. We consider several critical points when assessing the quality of pharmacogenomic findings and their relevance to clinical use, and discuss potential confounding factors limiting interpretation and implementation. Several of the most extensively studied drug–gene pairs (irinotecan and UGT1A1; tamoxifen and CYP2D6; 5-fluorouracil and DPYD) are inspected in depth as illustrations of both the state of advancement—and the current limitations of—present knowledge. We argue that there will likely soon be a critical mass of important germline pharmacogenomic biomarkers in oncology which deserve clinical implementation to provide optimal, personalized oncologic care. We conclude with a vision of how routine clinical testing of such germline markers could one day change the paradigm for cancer care.